Dealing with failure

Okay, folks. Time to get personal.

As I’ve mentioned in a past blog, my journey in the Med Lab program has been longer than your average students’. That’s because once upon a time, in Level 3, I hit a roadblock and that roadblock was failure.

I’m not talking about failing one test; I’m talking about requirements that I needed to advance in the program.

Without divulging the specific courses I struggled in, skills assessments were a hefty factor. In Med Lab, a pass is 60% in each component of every course—most often divided into theory, lab work, and skills assessments. I was pretty uneasy about a couple of my skills components and, going into finals week, I knew I probably hadn’t passed.

Not gonna lie – it was a rough few weeks. I was angry with myself. What if I had spent a little more time understanding this section? Or managed my time better on that part of the assessment? I had already switched post-secondary programs and still had no degree or diploma to show for it; I felt like I was continuing to let myself, and my family, down.

When I got my marks and saw the ‘U’ for unsatisfactory standing, I wasn’t surprised—but it did mean I had some hard decisions to make. It’s important to take that time to reflect on setbacks in order to learn from them. Was it stress and a few bad days? Was it a lack of interest in what I was learning? With such a strong practical component to the program, one is truly exposed to the kind of work technologists do on a daily basis.

Speaking for myself, I knew I was still passionate about the profession—and I was so close. I wanted to come back and finish the program. I reached out to my instructors in order to review my final exams/skills, and get some advice on where to improve so I could come back the following year and be successful.

Since I would be rejoining the program in January (Level 3 is January-May), I essentially had half a year off. I worked a couple part-time jobs to help with tuition, reviewed my notes, and applied for re-admission.

What was different when I came back? Firstly, one audits the Level 3 courses they already passed. It wasn’t mandatory to attend the lectures of said courses, but it was to partake in the labs – understandable, as you wouldn’t want to lose those bench skills. Available clinical placement ‘seats’ are dependent on the attrition of the intake you’re joining. I did my Level 1 phlebotomy rotation at a hospital on the lower mainland, and though I was hoping for a seat in town when I re-entered the program, I knew having to move cities was a possibility. The situation pushed me to be more independent. Save for the increased living expenses, I’m embracing the opportunity.

I think the most important change was the one I had to make in terms of my own mindset. I found myself asking more questions when I was unsure of something; working through labs with a more systematic approach. Time in the lab is valuable, so make use of the resources available to you during those regular periods. The goal is to be as prepared as possible heading into skills – a self-reliant and often more stressful component.

Failing out of a program is never a situation you want to be in, but if it does happen, don’t rush decision-making. Accept your emotions, be constructive, and make the best choice(s) you can for yourself—whether that be returning to school or not.

flor is one of my favourite bands on the planet. 🌿 A lot of comfort woven into their melodies, for sure.

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